PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Twenty-three West Virginia EMTs and paramedics are in Florida to provide services to areas affected by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm.

The group, who call themselves the Mountaineer Strike Team, will be performing missions as the storm moves northward as a tropical depression. Its membership is made up of emergency personnel and vehicles from the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, Jan-Care in Beckley and Logan County EMS.

Navy Commander James “Buzz” Mason, of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority, said although the system moved overnight as a Category 1 system, it did cause power outages and damage to some of the team’s vehicles.

“Everybody was safe,” he said. “We had some broken glass. We had some dented vehicles. I mean, nothing that keeps us being operational.”

Chris Lawrence/

The 23-member team left last week ahead of Hurricane Irma’s landfall.

The Mountaineer Strike Team spent Sunday evening at a Target before leaving Monday morning for what he described as “high-priority missions.”

In Odessa, Florida, a community in southwestern Pasco County where the group stayed, Mason said the storm’s lack of energy brought heavy rain and winds to the store, much different than the flooding seen in Miami and the Florida Keys.

Mason added no matter what challenges the Mountaineer Strike Team must face, they are ready.

“These guys have deployed for more than 30 days in the past before,” he said. “These guys even ran a hospital in a small town in Texas once just because that down had been inundated with 40,000 people.”

Mason did not say how long the Mountaineer Strike Force will be in Florida to help with recovery efforts.

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